How to Tell if Your Crayfish is About to Molt: The Definitive Guide

How to tell if your crayfish is about to molt? In this guide, I will describe the symptoms that indicate that a crayfish is about to molt, the molting process & as well as what you need to do to ensure its survival.

Molting is a natural process that all crayfish go through. However, it can be a very vulnerable time for them, so it’s important to know what to look for and how to take care of them.

In general, crayfish stop eating, become less active, hide more, lose some vibrant colors, and the eyes become cloudy before molting. 

What Are The Molting Cycles of Crayfish?

Crayfish, like all other crustaceans, must molt or lose their tough exterior shell (also known as their “exoskeleton”) in order to grow. Young crayfish need to go through ten to fifteen different molts before maturing.

As crayfish grow, they periodically molt to shed their old exoskeleton and develop a new, larger one. The molting process usually takes place at night and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Crayfish typically molt every few months, but the frequency can differ depending on the species, the individual, and age. For example, some crayfish may molt as often as once a month, while others may only molt once or twice a year.

Molting Cycle Of Crayfish

The molting cycle of the crayfish can be divided into four main stages. Those are:

  1. Pre-Molting Stage
  2. Molting Stage
  3. Post-Molting Stage
  4. Inter-Molting Stage

Let’s discuss in brief what happens in the different stages of molting.

#1: Pre-Molting Stage (Preparation for Molting)

In the pre-molt stage, preparations for molting are made. The formation of the new, underlying (soft) exoskeleton occurs. Also, rebuilding the soft exoskeleton beneath the old one also starts.

During this time, calcium is drawn from the old shell and redistributed. As a result, crayfish stop eating as they approach molting and seek shelter or cover instead.

#2: What Happens During the Molting Process?

The crayfish’s body swells up during the molting process as it absorbs water. This causes the old exoskeleton to crack and split open, and the crayfish begins to emerge from it.

It is the shortest stage among fours, and molting is often completed within a few minutes. During this period, the fragile exoskeleton breaks between the head & tail, and crayfish release that by flipping its tail.

The new exoskeleton is soft and vulnerable at first, and the crayfish is extremely helpless during this time. The new exoskeleton can take a few hours to harden and protect the crayfish’s body.

#3: Post-molting Stage (Hardening Begins of the New Exoskeleton)

Hardening of the new exoskeleton begins in this stage, and calcification occurs in two ways.

First, hardening starts by absorbing calcium from the body retained in the soft tissues and other areas. Later, calcium from water is absorbed. Finally, further hardening goes on when crayfish start to feed. 

Tips: You should not remove the old exoskeleton as it may be consumed by crayfish to reuse some of the calcium and salt to speed up the calcification process.

#4: Inter-molting Stage (Hardening Completes)

The exoskeleton hardens and matures during the inter-molt phase. Crawfish eat voraciously during this period, growing their tissue. 

Therefore you should provide sufficient nutrition to your crayfish in this stage to help them grow up and harden their shell.

How to Tell if Your Crayfish is About to Molt?

There are a number of ways to identify whether your crayfish is going to molt:

  • The crayfish may stop eating and become inactive.
  • Its coloring may change, and it may become paler.
  • It may hide more than usual.
  • The tips of its claws may turn white.
  • Its shell may appear to be softer than usual.
  • Its eyes become cloudy.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to take extra care of your crayfish and ensure it has a safe place to molt.

How long does it take for a crayfish to molt?

The whole molting process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It actually depends on the size of the crayfish. A smaller crayfish will require less time and usually last for 24 hours. However, it may require 3-5 days to complete the process for a bigger size.

How long does it take for a crayfish to molt

The crayfish will shed its old exoskeleton and grow a new one during this time. The new exoskeleton is softer than the old one and needs time to harden. Once it has toughened, the crayfish will be able to resume its normal activities.

How to take care of a molted crayfish?

After the crayfish has molted, it is vital to take care of it. This is because the new exoskeleton is very fragile and needs time to harden.

The best way to do this is to put a divider in the tank. This will prevent it from being harmed by other crayfish or predators.

How to take care of a molted crayfish

It is also vital to ensure that the tank has plenty of hiding places. This will give the crayfish somewhere to go if it feels threatened.

Once the crayfish’s new exoskeleton has hardened, you can remove the divider and enjoy your tank as before.

How often does a crayfish molt?

The process of molting is governed by hormones. It happens more often in younger growing crayfish than the older ones.

On average, a crayfish will molt between six to ten times in its first year of life. After the first year, this number drops to somewhere between three to five times.

How often does a crayfish molt

The rate at which crawfish grow in size during the molting process and the amount of time between molts are subject to a great deal of variation. They are influenced by a number of factors.

The factors include the temperature of the water, the quality of the water, the food quality and quantity, the population density, the oxygen levels, and to a lesser extent, genetic influences.

Crawfish are capable of experiencing a single molt that causes them to grow up to forty percent heavier and fifteen percent longer than they were before.

Relation Between Crayfish Molting & Hiding Spots

As mentioned earlier, when a crayfish is molting, its new exoskeleton is very delicate. This indicates that the crayfish is susceptible to being attacked during this period.

To protect themselves, crayfish will often hide away during the molting process. This is why it is essential to give an abundance of hiding places inside your tank.

Crayfish may experience a great deal of anxiety throughout the molting process. Therefore, you need to provide a stress-free tank environment as much as possible.

The best way to do this is to make sure that there are plenty of hiding spots. You should probably be added during the crayfish tank setup time; however, if you didn’t, it’s high time.

Crayfish molting or dead

Sometimes, crayfish become so lethargic that it seems dead while molting. Some fish keepers often mistake it for death, becoming worried about their crayfish.

If you’re one of those who think your crayfish is dead, and you find it lying on its back with its claws in the air, don’t worry. This is a common molting position for crayfish.

Your crayfish is not dead, and it will resume its normal activities once it has molted.

What to do if a crayfish dies during molting?

If your crayfish does die during molting, there is not much you can do. This is because the process of molting is very delicate, and if something goes wrong, there is not much you can do to save the crayfish.

If you find that your crayfish has died during molting (according to one study, approximately 45% of crayfish deaths occur during molting), the best thing to do is remove it from the tank. 

This is because the carcass can contaminate the water and cause problems for the other crayfish in the tank.

Wrapping Up

By following these steps, you can be sure that your crayfish will molt safely and be able to resume its normal activities quickly.

Molting is a natural process that all crayfish go through, and by being prepared, you can ensure its survival. Thanks for reading! I hope this guide was helpful.

Sujit Modak

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